Where do we go from here? Commentary by Don Kirkland

By Don Kirkland

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Several weeks ago on these pages we suggested that Wrangler News and other small, community-based newspapers are pondering their future as it relates to the in-depth coverage of local news.

This, we observed, is due to the decline of many big-city dailies, which have for years been the go-to source for news content that relates to government, schools and the wide-ranging, day-to-day events that all of us as citizens need to know about.

What prompted our first series of comments was the report that Gannett, publisher of more than 200 daily newspapers around the country, including the Arizona Republic, had laid off 3 percent of its workforce, causing us and others to wonder how we would—or should—find a way to help fill any resulting void in local coverage.

Last week, as of the latest edition of Editor & Publisher, the nation’s premier, 100-plus-year-old journal of newspapering, we learned that an even more dire announcement was made Oct. 13, forecasting yet more imminent budget cuts.

In an email to staff, Gannett CEO Mike Reed told employees that the company faces continuing economic “headwinds” and needs to take immediate action to curtail further losses.

What this portends for the Republic is not entirely clear, and so reaction on our part at this time, if any, would be indeed premature.

No matter what the outcome, however, several worrisome changes appear to be self-evident.

One of those is that local news is vital to our knowledge of the management underpinnings of our communities—to our ability as residents to monitor and react to actions by local governance that we might perceive either as beneficial or contrary to the public good.
Simply stated, we need to know what our public officials are doing, and the only way to track that is through efforts of the trained, diligent news media. Like the Arizona Republic has provided us for many years.

Which brings us to the second of our concerns. Most small, locally owned publications like Wrangler News and others do not have the capacity to pick up and respond to the gargantuan responsibilities of providing full, daily news coverage, should that be the only answer.

What’s more, we’re not sure this kind of reporting would fit with the interests or needs of those who read community newspapers. Again, like Wrangler News.
In fact, we were discussing a couple of hard-hitting commentaries that have appeared in our paper in recent months, and some among us wondered if such viewpoints, while undeniably valid, are in sync with a newspaper that has always tried to tell the positive side of what’s going on around us.

So what do you think? Where should we go from here? If in fact there are fewer sources for all of us as neighbors to know the occasional questionable sides of governance, are we telling the stories—all of the stories—that newspapers have accepted as an important part of their historic responsibility?

We have a great staff of dedicated, talented writers and photographers at Wrangler News. We love what we do and look forward to each assignment, each day, each of the thousands of editions we have published every two weeks for 30 or more years.

If you feel it’s important that we continue pursuing this labor of love, suggest to the business people you’re close to that they consider Wrangler News as part of their marketing budget.

We’re going to keep doing it no matter what, but it would be great to have the added resources to do even more. Even better.

Especially, we suppose, if you also tell us that you see value in us picking up some of the heavy lifting that appears likely to be left behind as the traditional news media face economic challenges.

Just a thought for all of us to consider. Send an email to editor@wranglernews.com. It would be a big help for us to hear your ideas. And, oh yeah…thanks!

— Don Kirkland is the publisher of Wrangler News

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